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Tourism campaign phones home

Some may call it unrealistic: an ultra-thin, touch-screen cellphone with e-mail, Web browsing, GPS, a camera and a video projector. Throw in a coffee brewer, shaver and harmonica, and you have the Pomegranate NS08 phone.

The far-fetched concept isn’t the brainchild of any cellphone manufacturers, nor a farce from recent mobile entrant Google -- a company known for such tech hoaxes as last year’s sewage-powered wireless broadband service. The Pomegranate phone is part of a $300,000 ad campaign put together by Nova Scotia. Yes, that Nova Scotia, the small province in southeastern Canada.

The website is part of the Nova Scotian government’s “Come to Life” ad campaign, which hopes to build interest in the province virally through nontraditional means, a spokesman for the campaign said in an e-mail. And an imaginary cellphone would certainly classify as nontraditional.

“We needed to find a unique way to get people focused on our province,” another “Come to Life” representative, Stacey Jones-Oxner, said in an e-mail. “Since there is so much buzz out there around the newest and latest smart phones, we thought this was a good device to use. This is especially true when you consider that the people who are interested in the latest technology are often people involved in business and tend to be key influencers.”

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Jones-Oxner says they’re trying to reach those with clout in cities such as Boston, Toronto, Ottawa and Calgary. OK, so why not just take out an ad in a local newspaper?

“If you consider the amount of people we have reached and compare it to the cost of say a full-page ad in ONE of our target cities (approx $60,000) it is a solid investment,” Jones-Oxner wrote.

The month-old website ( www.pomegranatephone.com) -- created by Nova Scotian citizens, right down to where the website host server is located -- has received nearly 150,000 hits, with a majority of visitors also clicking through to the Nova Scotian government website.

The campaign says it is pleased with the results and expects popularity to snowball in the future. “The great thing about a viral campaign like this one is that it has a long shelf life!” Jones-Oxner wrote.

Now, the real question is how long until I can actually play the harmonica solo from “Blowin’ in the Wind” on my cellphone?

-- Mark Milian

From Technology: The business and culture of our digital lives

For more, go to latimes.com/technology

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L.A. UNLEASHED

Military dog cited for coolness

Army dog handlers have nominated Rex, an 11-year-old Belgian Malinois, for a coveted Combat Action Ribbon for showing coolness during a firefight in Afghanistan.

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Rex and his handler, Staff Sgt. Cully Parr, were attending a town hall meeting with village elders when Taliban snipers attacked. For two hours, the two sides exchanged gunfire and artillery.

Parr ordered Rex, a patrol and explosive-detection dog, to stand fast, lest he be injured and add to the confusion. Despite the chaos and gunfire, Rex obeyed the order and refused to budge.

“That’s where obedience training comes into play,” Parr told the American Forces Press Service.

Rex’s unit is now back at their base in Stuttgart, Germany.

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The daily regimen is training, with a little fun. “Rex has a rubber tug toy and loves it,” Parr said.

Military brass will decide whether Rex will receive the medal.

-- Tony Perry

From L.A. Unleased: All things animal in Southern California and beyond

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For more, go to latimes.com/unleashed

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THE DISH RAG

Baldwins battle over politics

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Must be quite loud at the dinner table when the Baldwin brothers get together and talk politics.

“30 Rock” star Alec Baldwin is a staunch supporter of Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama.

So is his little brother, Billy (“Dirty Sexy Money”) Baldwin, who raised $58,000 for Obama’s campaign with a recent fundraiser-dinner at his home.

But to make it interesting, their brother Stephen Baldwin is now outspokenly supporting Republican candidate John McCain. ...

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The actor, 38, and a born-again Christian, is voting Republican and calls Obama a “cultural terrorist,” although his views seem to be less about politics and more about religion.

“My desire to be at the RNC was this goal that I have to support the candidate that I believe has the most faith,” Stephen told “Access Hollywood.” “Systematically, God is being erased and removed from our culture, our society, our government.”

He added, “I think it’s kind of freaky, man.”

Stephen is also against homosexuality and gay marriage, a stand that his brother Billy disagrees with.

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-- Elizabeth Snead

From The Dish Rag entertainment blog

For more, go to latimes.com/thedishrag/


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